In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States, it became abundantly clear to the Western world that there was a new and pernicious nemesis in town. Radical Islamic suicide bombers had jolted us out of our torpor as we confronted the stark and frightening realization that our cherished democratic values, principles, code of ethics and very lifestyle were in existential danger. In order to eradicate the visceral feelings of resentment of Muslims that were ruminating in the psyches of Americans and other westerners; the media, along with those in academic and “politically correct” circles initiated a campaign of “re-education”. Extolling the virtues of the religion called Islam, they put forth the notion that Islam is a genuine religion of peace; a religion that places a sacred value on the sanctity of life. We were told that only a few extreme “radical Jihadists” belonging to an obscure organization called Al Qaeda were responsible for tainting and maligning the purity of Islam.
Wafa Sultan, an ex-Muslim dissident from Syria, offers a wholly different take on this sophistical premise in her new book, “A God Who Hates” (St. Martin’s Press – 2009) as she portrays a searing portrait of Muslim culture. The subtitle of the book describes Sultan as “the courageous woman who inflamed the Muslim world” as she “speaks out against the evils of Islam.” The reader is left with no doubt that Sultan is way more than a doughty and intrepid advocate of the truth, but a woman who is willing to place her life in mortal danger in order to preserve, protect and defend Western civilization as we know it.
The author raises the narrative to a highly profound level as she essentially reveals that, contrary to popular opinion, it is not a few “radical Jihadists” who are guilty of distorting otherwise warm and fuzzy Islamic precepts, but rather the culprit in engendering this kind of vitriolic hatred and bloodlust is none other than the Koran itself, along with the paradigm of the prophet Muhammad and the “god” known as Allah. She refers to Islam, as “the ogre” as she explores the psychological roots of a nomadic people who invented this religion in order to assuage their own paralyzing fears and overwhelming feelings of desperation and helplessness.
Wafa Sultan knows from whence she speaks. Having grown up in a devoutly Muslim home in Syria, she recalls her very personal stories of the barbarism of Islam and how it impacted on her and her family. Being born female in a Muslim culture that enforces a male hegemony, Sultan recalls the humiliating degradation imposed on her grandmother, mother and sisters who were virtual slaves to their husbands and their fathers. Contempt and loathing for women as inherently inferior beings permeates the Muslim world as is evidenced in today’s alarming escalation of “honor murders” in which Muslim men brazenly murder their womenfolk for alleged transgressions of Sharia law.
Women’s inhumanity to other women is also discussed here as Sultan tells us of the abusive treatment of daughter-in-laws by their own mother-in-laws who punish them in the same way that they themselves were tormented as young brides. Education for girls and women in Islamic society was sorely lacking and discouraged in order to keep them locked in a permanent state of servility. Their treatment of children is also spotlighted as abusive as the Koran mandates that they mete out corporal punishment to their children who do not pray or adhere to the tenets of Islam.
Sultan herself was fortunate in a sense. She was educated as a physician in Syria and her headstrong, independent nature compelled her to extricate herself from the draconian dictates of an oppressive religion. Moreover, as a physician in Syria she takes note of the glaring inequities of medical care as it pertains to gender. Dr. Sultan viewed Muslim men as anathema but as luck would have it, she met an educated man who respected her. After their marriage they made their way to the United States where she now raises her children and practices medicine in the Los Angeles area.
Citing a gamut of Koranic verses and providing concrete historical evidence dating back to the 7th century, Sultan proves that the predicate for Islam is unadulterated fear, violence, hatred of the other, theft and murder. From the genesis of the Islamic movement, the author informs us of Arab nomadic tribes raiding one another in bloodthirsty rampages that left sheer devastation in their wake. Describing the terror and desolation that the Arab peoples felt so acutely during centuries of desert dwelling, Sultan tells us that the fear of dying in the arid and harsh desert from hunger, thirst, illness and the always imminent attack by another tribe created an anxious and violent nation whose sole objective was daily survival at all costs. Says the author, “Arabs who lived in the environment that gave birth to Islam were powerless in the face of the challenges presented by this environment, which threatened their lives and their welfare. Because they felt so helpless they felt a need for forcefulness and created a god who would fulfill this need. When the Arab male lost his power he felt the need for a forceful god. And so he created a forceful god in the image of his need – but this god was not powerful.”
Thus, the religion of Islam instills a hatred of the infidel, “the other” and anyone who does not subscribe to the tenets of their bellicose belief system. History has recorded that scores of heinous murders of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs were perpetrated by the hands of Allah’s followers. Because their god is described in the Koran as “The Harmer:, “The Avenger”, “The Compeller” and “The Imperious”, it is Sultan’s view that the Islamic people have internalized such labels and have sought to emulate the rudimentary character of their deity. Brutal savagery towards anyone they perceive to be a threat and even against one another is one of the modalities through which Muslims actualized these “godly” traits. She describes the prophet Muhammad as a man bereft of moral authority; a pedophile and a purveyor or violence and falsehood; He gives his tacit approval to his followers to continue on the trajectory of “holiness” by engaging in hostile acts of religious zealotry, without regard for human life.
Offering eclectic insights into Muslim culture, Sultan tells us that because Islam is so riddled with strife, negativism and banal hatred it’s language readily reflects this all encompassing disposition. As such, Muslims do not speak in a calm and reasoned manner but rather are vocally strident; resorting to constant shrieking, yelling, bellowing and shouting while engaging in acrimonious, ad hominem attacks against those who they are purportedly conversing with.
And that, of course, segues into a chapter called, “Who is that woman on Al Jazeera?”. As a world renowned essayist, Dr. Sultan’s opinions were well known through the Arab and Muslim countries. For that reason, the Al Jazeera television network invited her to debate a domineering Islamic cleric on the topic of “the connection between Islamic teachings and terrorism.” It was in this venue that Dr. Sultan, having been denied the right to express herself or given enough time to state her case by the male moderator, did so anyway in an erudite and eloquent fashion without raising the volume of her voice; in contrast to her adversary who engaged in ear popping dialogue.
Given the last few seconds of the show to conclude her thoughts, Dr. Sultan was once again interrupted by the clergyman but this time told him in no uncertain terms to “Be quiet! It’s my turn!”. This kind of rejoinder is considered common parlance to us Westerners who enjoy watching television debates but these few words sent shock waves throughout the Muslim world. “I uttered this sentence without realizing it would open a new chapter in Arab and Muslim history. Never in the history of Islam has a woman clearly and forcefully asked a Muslim man to be quiet because it was her turn to speak”, says Dr. Sultan.
Throughout this engrossing and compelling book, Sultan generously heaps praise on her adopted country. She acknowledges her appreciation for the plethora of rights, individual freedoms and liberties that she has enjoyed in the United States for the last 21 years. She urges America to stand strong in the face of the proliferation of global radical Islam and suggests that it confront the burgeoning threat to our civilization that “the ogre” represents in a pro-active fashion. “I love America as few people do” says Sultan, and “my love for it makes me feel concern for it. I do not want any danger to threaten the safety or beauty of this country that rescued me from my fears and fed me when I was hungry. America, to put it very briefly indeed, is my freedom.”